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Texas Holdem poker is by far the most popular poker game played around the world today.

But despite its storied history and preference among the legendary Texas Road Gamblers, like Doyle Brunson and Amarillo Slim, it’s only in the last decade or so that Texas Hold’em has replaced Draw or Stud poker as the game of choice in most poker rooms.

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Texas Holdem was largely popularized thanks to the proliferation of televised poker and has become the dominant choice for games in poker rooms around the world, both live and online.

It’s popular for good reason. It’s simple to learn but offers fantastic action, lots of opportunities for psychological battles and the pulse-pounding chance to shove all your chips in the middle in at any point.

Why is Texas Hold’em Poker So Popular?

If you play poker online at all you’ll know that the vast majority of all the action – especially at the smallest stakes - is in No-Limit Texas Holdem. You’ll find some Pot-Limit Omaha and 7-Card Stud and a smattering of mixed games, but if you’re looking for a game, you better know the ins and outs of Holdem.

There are plenty of reasons why Texas Holdem has become the poker game of choice. Primarily, though, the sheer volume of television exposure it’s seen over the last decade is reason enough.

People want to copy what they see on TV and, as you’ve likely seen yourself, Holdem makes for some exciting moments on screen.

Another added benefit is that Texas Holdem poker itself is quite easy to pick up. The strategy is a bit less complicated than some other poker variations, the math is a bit more accessible and the pace of the game makes it appealing for amateurs that don’t have a lot of patience to let a Stud hand play out.

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Texas Holdem Rules

If you’re new to the game of Texas Holdem, the good news is that it really does only take a minute or two to learn the rules and get in a game live or online. 

Each player around the poker table (usually between 6-10 players) is dealt two cards that are his/her own (called "hole cards"). The two players to the left of the dealer button (a small disc that rotates around the table after each hand) are called the "small blind" and the "big blind," respectively.

texas holdemThese are forced bets that those players have to put in the pot before every hand begins.

These positions also rotate clockwise around the table after each hand so each player will have the dealer button and be in the blinds once every orbit of the table.

The most common increments of the blinds in Texas Holdem poker are anywhere from $1/$2 - $10/$20 in live cash games although high-stakes games can run up to $1,000/$2,000 and higher.

Online the stakes are much lower with blinds as low as 1c/2c up to $2/$5 being the most frequent Texas Holdem games played.

In fact about 90% of all Texas Holdem poker games online happen under $5 blinds so it's easily one of the most accessible hobbies in the world.

In Texas Holdem tournaments players pay a set entry fee before the tournament begins (eg. $10) and the blinds don't have a dollar value per se. They are chips put in the pot before a hand begins to create action and the blind levels rise as the tournament progresses.

The winner if the tournament is the last player standing with all of the chips. The top 10-15% of players in the tournament share in the collected prize pool money on a sliding scale with the top 6-9 players getting the biggest share of the money.

For a more detailed look at Texas Holdem poker rules, see our Texas Holdem Rules page here:

Texas Holdem Game Action

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Once every player has two cards in front of them and the blinds have been put in the middle, a first round of betting follows. The betting begins with the player to the immediate left of the big blind and ends with the players in the small and big blinds.

Players can choose to check, call (put in an amount equal to the big blind bet), bet (put in a bet at least twice as big as the big blind) or raise (make a bigger bet over the top of another player’s raise).

Any player who wants to stay in the hand has to at least match the current highest bet to continue. Once all players have had a chance to act, if there are any players still in they go on to the next betting round.

Three community cards are then placed face up on the table. This is called the “flop.” All players can use these three cards together with their two hole cards to create a poker hand.

A second betting round follows the flop. The same conditions apply as the first betting round although this time the betting round starts with the first player to the left of the dealer still in the hand.

Each person needs to match the amount of any bet to carry on in the hand. If all players check they can move on to the next card without having to put any more money in the pot. 

Then a fourth card is placed face up on the board – this is called "the turn." Another round of betting follows and then a final community card ("the river") is dealt.

A final betting round takes place and if there are still players left in the hand there is a showdown. Your final five-card Texas Holdem poker hand can use both of these cards, one of these cards or none at all (play the board). 

The player with the best five-card poker hand wins the pot (if two or more players have the same hand, the pot is split). If you're unfamiliar with the standard Poker Hand Rankings, check out the hand rankings here:

As you can see Texas Holdem is a simple game to learn but the subtleties are substantial and the only way to truly master the game of Texas Holdem is by putting in many, many hours of play.

How to Make a Texas Hold'em Hand

rules of texas holdem poker

Figuring out what your exact final hand is in Texas Holdem may seem tricky at first but it's really quite simple. After a few dozen hands of practice it'll become second nature.

Still, even the best poker pros misread their hands every now and then so don't beat yourself up over it if you get it wrong from time to time.

Each player always has to use exactly five cards to make up his or her final poker hand. Those five can be made up of any combination of cards from your hand and the board cards - meaning you can use one, two or none of your hole cards in your final hand.

If the best five-card poker hand you can make is the five cards on the board, that's your best hand and your hole cards can be excluded.

Even if, say, you have a pair in your hole cards, if there are two pairs higher than that on the board those are the two pairs you'd play along with the highest kicker from either the extra card on the board or from the pair in your hand.

Texas Holdem Poker Hands

As we mentioned above you can see the full Texas Holdem hand rankings here but here's a quick crib sheet of Texas Holdem poker hands ranked from highest to lowest:

Royal Flush - A-K-Q-J-T all of the same suit
Straight Flush - Five cards in consecutive order (eg. 4-5-6-7-8-9) all in the same suit
Four of a Kind (Quads) - Four cards of same rank (eg. 5-5-5-5) 
Full House - Two cards of the same rank plus three cards of another, same rank in the same hand (eg. 9-9-9-J-J) 
Flush - Five cards all of the same suit (all different ranks)
Straight - Five cards in consecutive order, not all in same suit
Three of a Kind - also called "Trips" or a "Set" Three cards all of same rank plus any two non-paired cards
Two Pair - Two different pairs in the same hand plus one non-paired card
One Pair - One pair of same rank with three non-matching cards
High Card - No matching cards in consecutive order or suits

Texas Holdem Starting Hands

play texas holdem freeHere are the top 10 starting hands in Texas Holdem poker:

  • Pocket Aces (AA)
  • Pocket Kings (KK)
  • Pocket Queens (QQ)
  • Ace-King Suited (AhKh)
  • Pocket Jacks (JJ)
  • Pocket Tens (TT)
  • Ace-Queen Suited (AhQh)
  • Ace-King Offsuit (AdKc)
  • Ace-Jack Suited (AcJc)
  • King-Queen Suited (KdQd)

These are the best hands you can be dealt before the flop in Texas Holdem and, in most cases, should be played from any position at the poker table.

The nuances of Texas Holdem strategy are many, however, so which hands to play and how to play them best should be studied in-depth to maximize your chances of winning in Texas Holdem.

If you'd like to learn more about Texas Holdem strategy, check out our Texas Holdem beginners strategy guide here:

Texas Holdem Poker for Free

If you want to get started in the game of Texas Holdem poker it's easy to do so without risking any of your own money. Every online poker site offers free poker games for beginners with no money required to enter.

These free Texas Holdem games are perfect for beginners to get their feet wet in the game and get used to the speed and interface of online poker. When you sign up and create your new poker account, simply look for the "play-money" tab in the lobby and you'll find lots of games to choose from.

Once you've found your footing in the play-money games you can then get a real-money bankroll started without a deposit by collecting your poker bonus and playing what's called "freerolls" - free poker tournaments that don't cost any money to enter but offer real-money (or real-money value) prizes.

It's typical you get at least a few freeroll tickets with a new account and if you make a small deposit will receive even more. Check out our page below for more information on the best poker bonus sign-up deals: